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Patagonia 2012-13: Climbers Populate Rimeless Summits
Posted on: February 7, 2013
Chad Kellogg jugs through the A1 pitch of Cerro Torre's Corkscrew link-up, with Torre de la Medialuna and El Mocho far below. Unusually dry conditions in Patagonia have aided in the myriad notable traverses, link-ups and new routes climbed this summer season. [Photo] Colin Haley
Prototype ice axe "wings" intended for rime climbing are available for loan in El Chalten, but they have sat unused for much of the climbing season. A remarkably warm austral summer of 2011-2012 and a dry austral winter have precipitated some of the driest ice climbing conditions seen in Patagonia, making summits in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares unusually reachable.
Twenty-three individuals summited Cerro Torre via the Ragni Route (M4 90 degrees, 600m) on Christmas and 22 on New Year's Day. On January 14, Austrian Markus Pucher completed the Ragni's first free solo in just three hours and fifteen minutes. Later in the month, Chad Kellogg and Colin Haley completed the first fair-means ascent of the "Corkscrew" link-up on Cerro Torre, combining the Salvaterra variation of the Southeast Ridge with the Ragni Route by traversing across ice on the upper south face.
Once considered a difficult testpiece, the Ragni has become the line of choice on Cerro Torre. Parties are aided by the dry conditions this year, but are also deterred from the formerly easier Southeast Ridge since Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk chopped the bolt ladder on the upper headwall in 2012.
While difficult routes like the Ragni are seeing more traffic, new climbs are also going up throughout the region. Fitz Roy alone has seen development on its east face, Pilar Goretta and north face.
Un Mar de Suenos (7a A3 M4, 1200m)
Michael Lerjen-Demjen using his tricks on the fifth pitch of Un Mar de Suenos (7a A3 M4, 1200m), during the pair's first attempt on the line last summer. [Photo] Jorge Ackermann
"The black dike is, for me, the most notable line on Fitz Roy," writes Jorge Ackermann of the massive feature on the east face. "It always fascinated me."
In 2011, Ackermann and Swiss climber Michael Lerjen-Demjen saw potential for a new line on the East Pillar between that black dike and the 1976 Casimiro Ferrari route. The pair first tried it in January 2012, retreating after one day due to warm conditions and general exhaustion after assisting with a rescue. They decided to return in the peace and quiet of winter, but in July they found ice-filled cracks and with a full haulbag their progress slowed to a crawl; it took them three days to regain their previous highpoint. A storm was approaching, and they retreated.
This season they returned on a stormy November day, "this time with the right gear and the right tactic." They climbed to the Col of Hope, in one day, while the east aspect sheltered them from the wind. Ackermann writes that it was a wild and exhilarating day. The weather cleared that night, and the next morning they climbed a detached pillar, only to be delayed by 20m of "daunting seam crack." The lead took Lerjen-Demjen two hours, but they gained a perfect hand crack and much-needed momentum.
After a second night they joined the Ferarri route for five pitches, but decided to diverge again to find less chossy terrain. They left much of their bivy gear and rack at the split, "a big mistake," according to Ackermann. They were able to reach the summit, but there they faced the prospect of rappelling the route to retrieve their gear. After 36 hours awake, they made it back to glacier and, adrenaline still pumping, walked back to town.
They called the 1200m route Un Mar de Suenos and grade it 7a A3 M4. During their three attempts on the line, Ackermann and Lerjen-Demjen placed no bolts and fixed no ropes.
Pilar del Sol Naciente (5.12b A1 WI6 M6, 1000m)
Steep climbing and Patagonian weather on Pilar del Sol Naciente. [Photo] Jerome Sullivan
"There are times when numbers speak louder than words," writes Jerome Sullivan, part of the Franco-Spanish team that climbed Pilar del Sol Naciente, a new route on remote Cerro Murallon, in early December.
This 32-pitch line up the southeast ridge entailed 32 days of autonomy: 15 walking; 10 on the wall; seven waiting for the sun. The team, five strong, included French climbers Lise Billon, Francois Poncet, Jeremy Stagnetto, Jerome Sullivan and Spaniard Pedro Diaz. They were "338 kg of human meat on departure," writes Sullivan, and just 299 kg when they returned. The team carried 301.5 kg of equipment—150 kg of food, 100 kg of wall gear, 1 kg of toilet paper, and "500 g of shampoo for Pedro's beautiful gypsy hair."
At 5.12b A1 M6 WI6, the route involved 32 pitches of climbing and 15 bolts for belay anchors. Sullivan writes that they climbed "30 pitches free, eight meters of aid, 100 meters of mixed climbing," and that of the 1000 meters, 900 were "perfect granite." When the satellite phone stopped working below the 400m headwall, the team realized how reliant they had become on the forecast. But the weather held, and the headwall was laced with thin, protectable cracks ranging from 5.11b to 5.12b. Their final summit push lasted 34 hours; they chose to wait for the sun to surmount the final crux. Dawn brought relief from a frigid night, and inspired the name of the climb, which translates to "Pillar of the Rising Sun."
A climber carries a large load to his base camp before a successful ascent of Pilar del Sol Naciente (5.12b A1 WI6 M6, 1000m) on Cerro Murallon, one of the more remote peaks in the area. [Photo] Jerome Sullivan
Cerro Murallon (not to be confused with Aguja T48, which was formerly known by that name) is one of the more remote peaks in Argentine Patagonia. Though Eric Shipton possibly reached the summit of Murallon in 1961, the first confirmed ascent came in 1984, when Italian alpinists Casimiro Ferrari, Carlo Alde and Paolo Vital reached the summit via the North Pillar. It was Ferrari's fourth expedition to the mountain. In 2005, German climbers Stephan Glowacz, Robert Jasper and Klaus Fengler received a Piolet d'Or nomination for their 2004 ascent of The Lost World (V 5.10+ M8), just the second ascent of the North Pillar. (See Alpinist 17 for more on The Lost World and the trio's 2006 route on Murallon, Gone with the Wind (VI 5.13- A2, 1000m.)
The southeast ridge, now home to Pilar del Sol Naciente, was first attempted in 1974 by Argentine climbers Jose Luis and Rafael Juarez. Rolando Garibotti has called it "the most beautifully striking unclimbed line in all of Patagonia."
Pollone Traverse (7a, 29 pitches)
The Giri-Giri Boys think big on the Pollone massif. Their traverse covered 29 pitches over two days of climbing and one to descent. A storm drove them off their route, and the ridgeline awaits a complete traverse. [Photo] Katsutaka Yokoyama
Just after Christmas, Katsutaka "Jumbo" Yokoyama and Ryo Masumoto of the Giri-Giri Boys completed an innovative traverse of the Pollone massif, covering 29 pitches from Aguja Pollone to Cerro Pollone.
Beginning December 26, Yokoyama and Masumoto climbed new terrain on the east ridge of Aguja Pollone before joining La Granja (6c, 350m), then diverging again for three pitches of splitter cracks (also 6c). The line "should be the real east ridge of Aguja Pollone," writes Yokoyama. "You can see why in the photo." In total they climbed 750m, with 500m of new terrain, reaching the summit of Aguja Pollone at 10 p.m.
The Giri-Giri Boys take a self-portrait during their attempted traverse of the Pollone massif. [Photo] Katsutaka Yokoyama
Six rappels and some easier terrain gave way to a good bivy by 3 a.m. The next morning they continued west, simul-climbing and occasionally descending to the col between Aguja Stefan and Cerro Pollone. "From here," Yokoyama writes, "nobody had touched before." They climbed the east ridge of Cerro Pollone to eventually join an established route, Re Puesto! (6b A1 M? 65 degrees, 600m), and then traversed to the north side to find better conditions. But a storm was gathering, and after enduring a sitting bivy on a small ledge, Yokoyama and Masumoto decided to descend into the strengthening wind and falling snow.
Though unable to complete their objective—a full traverse to the main peak of Cerro Pollone—Yokoyama writes, "We totally enjoyed (the) climbing itself, and learned a lot from this effort."
Directa Huarpe (M4 95 degrees, 330m)
Pitching out the top of the headwall on Directa Huarpe (M4 95 degrees, 330m), Cerro Torre. [Photo] Paul McSorley
Argentines Gabriel Fava, Wenny Sanchez and Roberto Treu put up Directa Huarpe (M4 95 degrees, 330m) on Cerro Torre. They arrived at their second bivy on New Year's Eve with a large group of climbers attempting the Ragni Route. The line, first attempted by Francois Marsigny and Andy Parkin in 1994, shares the next seven pitches with the Ragni, so the trio decided to start behind the crowd, departing at 4:30 a.m. "We knew the flutes were in good condition this year, with protectable ice, so we had only 300m of puzzle to solve between the Ragni and our dream line," writes Fava.
They climbed quickly on solid ice, encountering one 60m pitch of M4 and reaching the headwall at 12:15 p.m. They surmounted the much steeper headwall (including a 15m section of 95-degree ice) in three and a half hours, and reached the summit at 7 p.m. They named the line Directa Huarpe in honor of the indigenous tribes of their home in the Argentine Cuyo region. Six rappels brought the trio back to the their split from the Ragni, and the remaining descent to El Chalten—the "cradle of dreams," as Fava calls it—passed swiftly.
El Corazon (6c A4 M? 45 degrees, 1250m)
In mid-January, Carlos Molina and Inaki Coussirat completed the second ascent of El Corazon (6c A4 M? 45 degrees, 1250m) on the east face of Fitz Roy. On the second day, Molina fell 40 feet while leading the A4 section, damaging the gate of a carabiner. He replaced it with a locking 'biner and finished the pitch. Later, while jugging an overhanging section, Coussirat found that he had worn through the sheath of their rope on a sharp edge, and was hanging only by the core. Aiding the final pitch below what they hoped would be their second bivouac, Molina fell again when a tenuous cam placement popped shortly after he left the belay. He missed Coussirat but broke his ankle; Coussirat finished the pitch.
Inaki Coussirat moves methodically through the early pitches of El Corazon (6c A4 M? 45 degrees, 1250m) on the east face of Fitz Roy this January. [Photo] Carlos Molina
The next morning they began at dawn, and Coussirat led the final 11 pitches. Molina reports the foot "did not hurt so much" at that point, though he was unable to lead. At the summit they met Colin Haley and Sarah Hart, who helped them descend. They reached the glacier at 8 a.m., and with painkillers Molina was able to walk out to Laguna de los Tres, where he at last removed his boot, finding his foot "badly swollen and purple." Having finished the climb and descended most of the way, Molina and Coussirat finally borrowed a radio and called for help, which soon arrived in the form of a stretcher.
The Real Kekec (6c+ A2, 1250m)
Also in January, Slovenes Luka Krajnc and Tadej Krišelj climbed a new line in alpine style on Fitz Roy. The Real Kekec (6c+ A2, 1250m), a name derived from modern Slovenian folklore, climbs 800m of new ground before joining Renato Casarotto's original 1979 line up Pilar Goretta. Their climb joins the Casarotto one pitch below the summit of the north pillar, and then continues with it to the summit. They climbed the line over four days with no jumars and no bolts.
Samba do Leao (6c, 30 pitches)
Brazilians Flavio Daflon, Sergio Tartari and Argentine Luciano Fiorenza established yet another new route up Fitz Roy, free climbing the north face over three days. The route starts left of Tehuelche, climbing 11 pitches to the Gran Hotel ledge. It then continues between Clinica de Aventura and The Hoser Chimney (overlapping The Hoser Chimney for two pitches) before crossing the Afanassieff route and continuing up the headwall. In total, they covered 30 pitches, all but two previously unclimbed, with difficulties to 6c.
Luciano Fiorenza attacks the north face headwall on Fitz Roy below the summit during the first ascent of Samba do Leao (6c, 1300m). [Photo] Sergio Tarttari
"We were hunting lions and dancing samba every day and every pitch," Fiorenza said afterward. According to Rolando Garibotti, Fiorenza has climbed more than 100 new pitches on Fitz Roy alone in the last three seasons, and Samba do Leao is yet another gem.
A year of warm and dry weather has undoubtedly aided the eruption of new routes and traverses in Patagonia this season. Just as notable are the increasing accessibility to reliable weather forecasts; the recent publication of the region's most detailed climbing guidebook yet; and a growing number of visiting climbers, which have also made climbing near El Chalten much less committing than in years and decades past.
Rolando Garibotti notes on pataclimb.com that a changing climate has also significantly affected the area: "The legendary storms (are) but a distant memory," he wrote. The massif is no longer a mythical great range but a "phenomenal playground where hundreds of climbers are having deeply fulfilling experiences."
Keep an eye on our NewsWire for reports of further successes in Patagonia this season.
Sources: Jorge Ackermann, Gabriel Fava, Luciano Fiorenza, Carlos Molina, Jerome Sullivan, Katsutaka Yokoyama, Alpinist 17, climbing.com, colinhaley.blogspot.com, climbing.com, desnivel.com, outerlocal.com, ukclimbing.com and pataclimb.com entries for Agujas del Rio Tunel, Cerro Fitz Roy, El Corazon, Casarotto, Clinica de Aventura, The Hoser Chimney, Cerro Torre, the Ragni Route, Corkscrew variation, Cerro Pollone, Re Puesto!, Aguja Stefan, La Granja and Pollone Traverse.